Once you’ve confirmed you’re a viable fit for your target account after assessing the landscape of the healthcare sector, you should have a solid value proposition in mind. In order to ensure your value proposition is going to fall in front of the right people, your next step is to figure out who to approach, and subsequently, how to approach them. Here’s a guide on how to find the right buyers in the healthcare org, reach out through the right channel, and establish a long and fruitful partnership. This guide will help you to better navigate your sales cycle and close healthcare deals faster.

Who should I be targetting?

Given the industry’s efforts to gain more corporate IT control as discussed in the previous post on where healthcare is heading, it’s important you make every attempt to make contact within the right unit. According to Steve from McKesson:

“Eventually, you’re going to have to fall in front of corporate IT, and I’ve seen a number of situations where maybe a potential vendor is just cut off, because of the path they took. If you go in at the business unit CIO level, you’ve got a much better chance. But if you’re really going in at the director level or down, just trying to get a foot in the door, that’s probably going to be time that’s not very well spent.”

Former VP Data Center Services at McKesson

Our Emissary advisor at Walgreens also points out one key reason why this top-up approach won’t work: 

“The roadmap and strategic plans are evolving constantly which tends to cause a disconnect between decision-makers and team members.”

Former Head of Data Analytics & Corporate Technology at Walgreens Boots Alliance

It’s necessary that you understand the internal organization down to a tee so you know the exact right person to target – which due to the complexity of the healthcare space, changes vastly from company to company. 

When strategizing your approach, keep in mind that IT buyers are getting dozens of cold outreach a day, which means calling and emailing isn’t a viable strategy when you’re trying to get your foot in the door. Terry admits that at Kaiser:

“The people who take the cold calls are more or less the newbies, and they don’t have that much responsibility.”

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser

Both Steve and Terry disclose that the best way to make contact is through relationships that can be developed in a few different ways. If you know a current vendor who is already at your target account, that’s a great starting point according to Terry:

“If there was someone I respected and worked with, and I knew that they delivered – if they told me that there is a vendor out there that was doing a very good job, and they were good in their space and that I should take a look at them, those were the calls that I would take.”

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser

Another route is through conferences or seminars. Terry recommends that suppliers in the patient care IT space should attend the HIMSS Conference, as this is where the drivers of their business attend – the physicians themselves. They’re the ones who have specific problems in the field, and they’re going to see suppliers presenting or exhibiting at a booth and bring solutions back to IT.

 “As IT, we have to respond to them because they’re the real business. IT is not Kaiser’s business, it’s patient care.”

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser

On the other hand, for suppliers who are working on more strategic initiatives such as cloud or blockchain, they should attend the Gartner Conferences to meet face-to-face with the enterprise architecture team and the CTOs/CIOs. 

Some companies have also initiated their own vendor conferences. McKesson, for example, hosts an event where business leaders fly in to meet with vendors and convey their specific problems. Steve says that landing an invite as a vendor to this event is a great way to fast track an opportunity within McKesson. 

What should my messaging look like?

Once you’ve landed your intro, you’re now competing to become one of 10,000+ other vendors. Terry’s first piece of advice is: 

“Nobody can be all of them, so find out where you fit and pick one…Know where you fit in, and don’t try to bite off too big a piece of the apple”. 

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser

But how do you do that? What size of the apple is too big? Too small? Terry’s answer: One too many vendors approach healthcare companies such as Kaiser, with their generic pitch, but what they need to do is:

“Identify an actual problem. Once you’ve identified that problem, show how your solution is going to solve that specific problem. The vendors who put in the extra effort to really identify pain points and how their software or expertise could solve those pain points were the vendors who were successful at Kaiser.”

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser

Be sure you can speak to examples of similar problems you’ve solved within healthcare. A ten-minute case study proving ROI within the retail or the airline industry won’t win you any points. In fact, you’ll likely get written off pretty quickly. You need to be able to show that you know the company, you know their industry, you know their competitors, and you’re capable of speaking to these points. 

“When vendors sit across the table from me in initial meetings, I’ve often been surprised that they’ll ask me incredibly basic questions about the industry. And I think to myself, “Boy, you didn’t do your homework. If you don’t know these very basic questions, why are you wasting my time?

You may not really need to know the healthcare space to implement a solution, but you certainly need to know the healthcare space to get a seat at the table with a senior executive and be able to talk their language. That’s what gets you past that threshold to even talk about your technical solution. It may be the best thing out there, but if you can’t demonstrate that you understand the pain of a specific industry in the language of the industry, you often won’t get past that first date.”

Former CIO at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

Landing and Expanding

If you’ve come far enough to land the meeting and pique the interest of your buyer, you should be well prepared for the procurement and negotiation phase. Be sure to check our full playbook on navigating the procurement process, but there are specifics that relate to the healthcare industry to keep top of mind: 

When it comes to IT purchasing behavior in the healthcare space, your value proposition is one factor, but as we’ve mentioned, cost savings is another. If you focus solely on selling your value proposition to your end-users, you may alienate Corporate IT during the process, “this is probably one of the easiest ways to get yourself shut out of a deal, and any future deals,” according to Steve. He elaborates by advising sellers to come to the table willing to partner and even factor in some risk: 

“Say, ‘If I can’t deliver X, this will be the rebate’. It tells me a lot when someone can sit across a table, look me in the eye, and say, ‘My solution is so good that I’m willing to do x.’ I think that’s what gets people’s attention.”

Former VP Data Center Services at McKesson

Terry’s most important advice is that once you’ve landed the deal, you cannot become complacent. 

“I’ve actually seen many vendors go out of business because they couldn’t meet the demands of size of Kaiser’s infrastructure, applications, and the level of activity occuring .”

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser

Similarly, Steve sheds light on the types of vendors he works with after a deal is finalized and in what capacities. A vendor needs to have a clear perception of where they fit in, and the type of relationship that needs to be maintained. Some vendors will need to be hands-on and have someone designated in the corporate office a few times a week, or others may be expected to have a standing meeting once a month, once a quarter, or even twice a year. Be vigilant of what is expected of you and meet those standards. 

The worst thing a supplier can do is to land a sale, and then go dark. Steve recalls a number of instances where he’s had to call a vendor to tell them that their system is down:

“One of the biggest things that can alienate a vendor when they’re live, and something you need to think about upfront, is if McKesson knows they have a problem with your solution before you do. It’s pretty embarrassing when you get on the phone with your account manager after the sale, and he or she isn’t aware of what’s going on in your account. That’s looked at very negatively.”

Former VP Data Center Services at McKesson

Aside from maintaining a strong relationship, our Walgreens advisor sheds light on the importance of evolution and innovation within the healthcare space in order to stay a relevant partner: 

“The industry is experiencing an unprecedented amount of rapid changes. Technology has become a victim of its own success. The products and services technology offers are becoming irrelevant rapidly, which requires businesses to constantly reinvent their business model to adapt to consumer behaviors. Businesses are servicing 6 generations of consumers now who have become more influential than ever before with the power of social media. To be successful in this environment, digital transformation is key.”

-Former Head of Data Analytics & Corporate Technology at Walgreens Boots Alliance

The Bottom Line

The leading companies within healthcare are all going to be vastly complex. If you’re competing with 10,000+ systems in a time where there are huge pushes to achieve enterprise alignment, maximize cost savings, and fuel business transformation, you’ll have to prove yourself a vital piece of the puzzle. This means offering a clear solution to an existing problem that you can prove will:

  • Integrate with current solutions in place
  • Maintain its security within the cloud
  • Evolve with rapid changes in the technology landscape as well as consumers’ expectations

Becoming a key player in the healthcare tech stack won’t be easy. But when your plans come to fruition, prove yourself to be a partner that will work alongside your buyer and deliver a product that will help them achieve their end goals.